Friday, 28 August 2015

Mark Hill Supersize Me Volume Spray review and demo


Another real-time before and after review of Mark Hill's Supersize Me volume spray. I diligently follow the instructions by spraying on dry hair before blow-drying. But does it work?? Watch to see my thoughts.     

Mark Hill Volume Spray YouTube review and demo

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturiser review

Vaseline's Spray moisturiser comes in three flavours

Now I’m a bit of an anomaly on this one, but during the height of summer, I STILL need to use a body moisturiser.  Granted, I put away my trusty coconut oil, but going completely cream free leaves me with patchy dryness.        
So recently I’ve been opting for lighter moisturisers that lock in softness without feeling greasy.  I turned to Cuticura, namely their Skin + Balance Shine Control Facial Mosturiser, except I’ve been using it all over my body.  However, while Cuticura’s been surprisingly good (not to mention nice-smelling) on my body, it’s not been able to combat my dryness prone areas such as my elbows and knees.  

Vaseline's Spray comes in Cocoa Radiant, Aloe Soothe and Essential Healing

And that’s where Vaseline’s Intensive Care Spray Moisturiser has come to the rescue.  The Spray on moisturiser contains droplets of Vaseline jelly, so it packs a moisturising punch for summer, and will probably take me nicely into Autumn.  Despite being fairly heavy-duty in the softening stakes, it’s not greasy and can be used in the morning before dressing.     

Vaseline's Spray Moisturiser comes in three varieties, Cocoa Radiant - a chocolate-y fragrance, Aloe Soothe, a clean zingy note and Essential Healing, which has Vaseline's moisturiser's staple neutral scent.        

One note of caution I have to mention however with the spray is that it can quite easily go off piste, so you have to spray right onto the area otherwise you’ll end up with very soft bedding, or wherever else you tend to apply your moisturiser in the morning.  It might not sound like rocket science, but on a couple of occasions I managed to spray my arm and the surrounding area so it’s worth applying with precision and keeping the spray can close when using.   

Overall however, Vaseline’s Spray Moisturiser is a great addition to the Vaseline family, and my summer skincare regime.           

Vaseline's Spray Moisturiser comes with an RRP of £5.99, and is available in supermarkets and chemists including Boots and Superdrug.    

Monday, 24 August 2015

Getting conned in Siem Reap, Cambodia - a cautionary tale

Getting conned at a jewellers in Cambodia

Now I'd like to start this post by saying what a beautiful place Cambodia is. Unspoilt by its more commercial Asian counterparts, but enough 'home comforts' and mod-cons to make you feel at ease, Cambodia and its people are friendly, welcoming and polite. 

Cambodia is also a great place to visit, and I've highlighted some of the things you can do, and where to stay, in another articles.   

However, I've written this post is to highlight one situation which has taught me to be much more vigilant when abroad. And if you visit the area, I hope this serves as a warning not to fall into the same trap.      

So upon arriving at Siem Reap, the home of the legendary Angkor Wat, we joined the taxi rank at the airport to get to our hotel.

There was only one 'official' rank, ran by some kind of Transport Association. So official enough. 

Anyway our driver was incredibly friendly, well spoken and managed to articulate the various places we should go and see. He also told us that he could take us around this afternoon to see various sights including Angkor Wat at sunset. This would just cost $15 US Dollars. He said he could also take us around the next day for the whole day, taking in all three temples and some further, out of town destinations to boot. This would set us back $45USD.   

Now a point I have to make is that by this time, we'd kinda had our fill often dodgy taxi and tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok. Some didn't understand English and dropped us of at the wrong destination, while others just tried their best to hike up the price of a short ride. One chancer even switched their taxi meter off for a short journey in an attempt to charge a higher fee for a quick commute.  

So while our friendly driver in Cambodia was offering a premium priced fee, it seemed a price worth paying for ease of mind, convenience and a welcome break from haggling.
So we booked the driver for our first afternoon in Siem Reap. We'd planned to see the Angkor Wat at sunset, but we had a couple of hours to kill before then, so he suggested that we could see a few shops where local women make wooden items for sale. As there were few other options we went to the shop. Plus it didn't seem like such a bad option, as I assumed it meant that we'd see the women actually make the crafts, or at least that was how it was sold to us. 
However it turned out to be an air conditioned shop with the most full-on sales team ever. One thing I noted about Cambodia more than any other country I've visited - their sales patter is hard to the point of off-putting. It makes the salespeople on the souk stalls of Marrakech seem practically reserved. 

So I found myself surrounded by about four sales people, each honing in on every item I looked at and asking me for a price. My hubby revived the same undue level of service, so we bought an obligatory magnet and made a quick getaway. 

Whilst looking for our next destination, our driver also mentioned that Cambodia is mineral-rich and known for its sapphires, emeralds and rubies, and that they are cheaper here than elsewhere. 

I know what you're thinking. 

Yes, my eyes did slightly light up. Especially when he mentioned a shop where you can see the gems being carved and made into jewellery.
To say I was tempted was an understatement, after all I’d snapped up some bargain freshwater pearls in Thailand, so I figured a gemstone could fit in the mix.  Plus, I figured the idea of seeing stones carved would be a nice experience.

Anyway, we arrived at the shop - Khmer Jewellers - to find that it was an air conditioned jewellery store, not the rustic diamond mine I expected. Nonetheless, the place looked legit if nothing else.

Despite being disappointed, I looked at some gems, out of politeness. 
They all looked stunning, but I didn't pay too much attention to any as I wasn't planning on buying. However the pushy staff insisted on bringing out different pendants and necklaces. 

Despite asking them to stop showing more items. They continually stalked us, showing us different stones, urging a purchase.   

I did see some rings, one of which I liked, a sapphire with whites stones set in white gold. They said it cost $200 US dollars, but then immediately offered a discount to $120. 
I walked off, looked at some other items and then went to leave. Then they stalked us on the ring I liked, insisting we name a price. They even offered a gem certificate and free resizing. 

As I wasn't overly bothered about the ring, I gave an offensively low price of $50 to end the discussion. Despite initially saying they couldn't go that low, they called me back as I neared the door, asked their 'boss' to agree to the price. 
Now this all sounds terribly naive in hindsight. But at the time, in the air conditioned, authentic looking store, I had no real reason to doubt anything. And I figured a mineral rich country could offer a good price. Plus after spending a week bargaining hard in different countries across Asia, negotiating a 75% discount didn't seem too good to be true. 

Anyway, with a disgruntled husband slightly disapproving, I hurriedly purchased the ring, and took their certificate and didn't bother asking about resizing.

More fool me. 

The excitement of the purchase soon fizzled away when I read a number of reviews on TripAdvisor naming and shaming Khmer Jewellers as sellers of polished brass and fancy glass.

Many people before me had been duped, after being taken by the same taxi company to the jewellers and believing they'd bought a genuine precious gem.

And while I haven't had my bargain valued at a jewellers, for fear of being laughed out of the shop, upon closer examination of the ring, I can only conclude that I am the proud owner of an expensive piece of glass.  
The only saving grace was that I haggled and got a pretty low price (well in the grand scheme of things). 

But it was more the principle that bugged me. I would happily spend $50 buying postcards, wood carvings and all the other things being pedalled in the street, by incredibly poor locals, including young children. But instead, it was wasted on a very official con.

The people at Khmer Jewellers have no doubt cashed in on naive tourists, and they’re aided in their deceit by drivers like ours, who sell us a yarn along the way, and get a commission for their trouble.

Needless to say, I cancelled the next day’s full excursion with our driver. Instead we spent just $15USD on a kind and courteous tuk-tuk driver who took us around the whole day, waited patiently at each site and even dropped us off at airport. At the end we gave him a few more dollars as a tip, and he was unbelievably grateful for such a small gesture.
So despite feeling a bit cheated, I feel I got off lightly, and I'd impart the following advice when visiting Cambodia.

If you can, arrange your own transport. Otherwise you'll end up with the Transport company, who make it their business to book up day tours and take you around at a premium.

Invest in a tuk tuk. Unlike Bangkok, Cambodian tuk tuk drivers don't just do single trips. It's the norm for you to have the same driver for the whole day, and they'll wait patiently for hours as you take your millionth selfie in front of Angkor Wat. With our tuk tuk driver, we felt safe, reassured and taken of. Plus it was great to know that he was getting the money, rather than it going to a big company. 

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It's easy to get swayed whilst in another country, you have to wrap your head around a different currency, you want to collect souvenirs, and if you've got an impatient partner, you have to make quick decisions.
But the rule of thumb is, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I would say that always be mindful that not everything is not always as it seems. So pay a price that you're comfortable with, rather than what you'd expect to pay normally. That way you're less likely to feel robbed.   

I think I'll stay away from precious minerals and stick to ornaments and fridge magnets when abroad. And perhaps the odd bit of costume jewellery.    

Friday, 21 August 2015

Living with a man on a diet

Lettuce and tomatoes, a dieter's staple

Now I mentioned previously that my husband had been attempting a diet in bit to shed a few post-holiday pounds. Well after losing 8kg in 9 weeks (impressive) and then putting a few back on during Ramadan, (sounds ironic but we were eating this and this), he's back on it again. 
So given that he enjoyed some success, and is now doing it with a renewed focus, I decided to sit down with the desi boy in my life to share with you a bit more about it, plus how he's getting on. 

In the interests of completeness, I've added my notes at the end of how I'm finding life with a dieter. 

Me: Describe your diet? 

Him: The diet takes inspiration from an Asian diet called Kenzai. My brither has tried it and had great results. 

In simple terms, you cut out added sugar salt and oil, fried stuff, processed food, tinned food, fizzy drinks and all the other unnatural crap out there and only eat naturally occurring food. 

The food is also specifically measured, with a slowly decreasing allowance of carbs and protein.

There's also an exercise plan, with a varied workout every day, including up to 25 mins of skipping, around 2,500 skips!

I also do planks lunges, and waist twists. The idea is to work on different parts of body each day. 

Me: How did you find the diet at first? 

Him: First ten days you have momentum and excitement. You wanna go for it. After that you get few cravings and it gets harder. 

I Initially struggled thinking of varied food ideas. Eating measured portions of protein, carbs and veg, and cooking without any added salt (so no sauces, flavour packets, etc.) was a bit of a chore, as we had to be creative with herbs and spices. Also, food just didn't taste the same without salt! 

There was a lot of prep involved. It sometimes took about an hour to get dinner ready, and once we'd done that, it was time to prep for lunch. There was no eating leftovers for the lunch as the day food allowance would be different from the evening.
But once you start seeing results, it all seems worth it. Your relationship with food also changes as you don't miss salt and strong flavours so much, and appreciate the value of fresh food. 

Me: What was the hardest part of the diet? 

Him: Definitely the food, and not just because of the lack of flavour. 

Not eating out kind of kills your social life. It was only after doing this diet that I realised how much out world revolves around food. Eating out with friends, family visits, everywhere you go, there'll be food you can't have. 

So more than anything, food plays a huge part in our lives, so having to vigilantly eat at home every night did get a little boring. 

But on every 25th day, you get a 'cheat', where you can eat what you like. But when you do introduce 'normal' food, you realise how much salt and sugar it all contains. Suddenly the food I love, like nachos, salsa and baked beans, doesn't taste quite as good. 

Over time, you realise that more the food you eat out is full of sugar and salt. Your taste buds change. You learn portion control. So the hardest part of the diet isn't so hard any more. 

Me: What's been your biggest success?

Him: Losing 8kg in 9 wks. And best of all, rather than a crash diet, I lost this consistently and healthily. But beyond the kgs, I felt more energetic and looked better. 

Me: What's your best advice?

Him: Keep at it. In the first week or two you'll feel better but won't see changes. After the first four weeks you'll start noticing changes physically. It's a good motivator. But this diet is a long-term commitment, so you need to stick it out. You can't just do the three months and then resume your normal eating habits. It's a lifestyle change. But that doesn't mean you have to eat kenzai-esque food your whole life. You can introduce salt back in, but if you get back to your bad eating habits, the weight will just pile back on. 

But overall, it changes the way you look at food. I don't eat much fruit but am making more effort to eat it now.

Me: Would you recommend this diet to a friend? 

Him: Definitely! There's a reason most if my family are doing it. Of all the things I've tried, Insanity workout, and just good old fashioned portion control, this has had the best results. 

A wife's thoughts...

As the wife of a dieter, it has been a challenge but ultimately delivered the best results. I initially started the diet with hubby, as a support but also to shed a few £££s myself. It also helped to have the same meals, as preparing the extract proportions was a faff in itself, so to make something for myself would be just too much. 

However, I lost a little too much weight too soon, so I'm now taking it easy and letting my husband embark on this kenzai-ish adventure. 

This time round it's not been so bad, we've got into the routine of making his food and then my own. However, it's not so motivating cooking for myself, and I find myself grabbing easy option meals rather thank cooking properly. I've also noticed that when I eat my 'naughty' food in front of him, he's tempted to have a bit!  So I've got to keep the bad food at bay.   

So we're getting through the diet stage, and one thing's for sure, I do look forward to 'cheat' day! Living with a dieter is not so bad, and it's all worth it when hubby reaches his goal to not just look better, but be healthier too.         

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Easy midweek meal – chicken burrito

A homemade burrito with KFC, sour cream and salad

You know how it is.  You’ve come home from a long day at work and you need something quick and easy to eat.  But a nasty ready meal or greasy takeaway won’t do.       
So here’s the perfect halfway house, a chicken burrito which involves next to no cooking! All the ingredients you need are simple, and trust me, this is way better than paying through the nose to get something from one of those Tex-Mex places.  

As I was particularly tired last night, the chicken was a total cheat courtesy of KFC *shamed face*.  However, you can either use shop bought chicken breast (some come ready-marinated in different flavours), or you can roast your own chicken from scratch, though this does fly in the face of making a quick and easy cheat meal.   
But you can make some things fresh, such as the salad, which consists of lettuce, cucumber and tomato, and some guacamole (see my recipe for authentic guacamole here).

The rice I’ve used for this was an Innocent Veg Pot, which contained kidney beans, carrots and other veg in a curry sauce.  However, this burrito would work just as well with plain boiled rice with perhaps a dash of lemon juice for flavour.

So preparing is simple.  Just heat up the wrap for ten seconds in the microwave, then pile on some salad in your wrap.  After that, the order in which you load up the rest is entirely up to you.  
One word of advice – don’t overfill, otherwise you’ll end up with a wrap like mine, which I had to eat with a knife and fork.       
Other than that, roll up and enjoy!   

I may have said this before, but I’ll be mixing up ‘proper’ cooking with cheats like this.  I never claimed to be Nigella.  But perhaps that’s a good thing.                       

Monday, 17 August 2015

YouTube tutorial - hard to wear Shimmering Midnight blue smokey eye look on Asian/dark skin

blue smokey eye tutorial with shimmering black undertone

Another experimental makeup tutorial from me. This time it's in preparation for a wedding. After all, what better way to get ready for a wedding then to try a makeup look I've never done before and record it in real time for posterity?        

Now I'm not exaggerating here when I say I've NEVER created a blue eye makeup look. I just find that the shade doesn't flatter my skintone, or the colour just doesn't show up.  But all these years I've been going wrong with my base...    
This look uses the secret makeup artist technique of a black base, onto which lighter blue is added. 
The final look is bold, shimmery, smokey and works great with pared down cheeks and pink lips.        

Midnight blue shimmering eye look with updo

This tutorial is part of a series where I learn to apply lashes, and experiment with  an updo. So stay tuned and subscribe for more.  

Thursday, 13 August 2015

La Cucina, a halal Italian restaurant in the London's curry mile

Garlic mushroom and tomato bruschetta served at La Cucina Brick Lane

Mocktails at La Cucina, Brick Lane London
An Italian restaurant in Brick Lane, who'd have thunk it??

For those who don't know, Brick Lane is home to more Indian restaurants than you can shake a stick at. Such is the monopoly of curry houses - run by Bangladeshis - in this area, that some street signs are bilingual. In fact Londoners come from far and wide for a curry in Brick Lane.   

Tomato bruschetta with rocket

So you could say La Cucina, an Italian restaurant with quite a few halal options, was a slightly risky option given the location.

But the risk has paid off, La Cucina restaurant offers authentic Italian food and is packed out every weekend.

The clue to its success is perhaps in the word 'authentic'. There are Italian places that offer halal options and promise authenticity. Most takeaways miss the mark. And while I recently discovered that the Pizza Express chicken is halal, I'm not such a fan and still opt for their veg pizzas. 

But La Cucina boasts a menu of beef steak, veal (though didn't love this option), and seafood, as well as the custom pizza and pasta.    

Veal and roast veg at La Cucina, a halal Italian restaurant in Brick Lane, London

I've dined there a few times and have only had one misfire - I ordered veal, while my hubby had an 'American hot' pizza. My first - and probably last - experience of veal wasn't good, the strange rubbery, spongy texture of veal wasn't for me. The pizza meanwhile, was aggressively hot, even for my Asian palette.  

But here's the good stuff you SHOULD order if you dine there. The bruschetta is divine and comes with the freshest, juiciest tomatoes I've tried, the vegetariana pizza with artichokes and olives is a winner, and the spaghetti, whether with meatballs or mince, is a real hit.

We've also had chicken pasta and we always order dessert, just because the alcohol-free tiramisu and halal panacotta is divine. 

Halal panacotta served at La Cucina, Brick Lane, London

A real plus of La Cucina is the ambience and service. There is a wood fire on display where the pizzas and bruschetta is cooked, and we often get served by Gabriel, the most well-informed waiter we've ever met. Gabriel helps us navigate through dishes we've never tried before, and he's pretty much on the money with his recommendations.

So if you do head to Brick Lane or find yourself in the Shoreditch / Spitalfields area, it's worth paying a visit to La Cucina. That's if you can resist the many curry houses en route of course.  

Monday, 10 August 2015

Angkor Holiday Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia review

The outside of the Angkor Holiday Hotel in Siem Reap

The Angkor Holiday Hotel entrance features elephants, pillars and trees

Now I've reviewed a fair few hotels since starting the travel section of my blog, and I always like to stay at a range of hotels of different prices. 

The Angkor Holiday Hotel certainly fell into the value category. 

As part of our trip to Asia, we fitted in a rather last minute plan to fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia, to visit the legendary Angkor Wat temple.      

We were only staying one night and we knew we'd spend most of our time outdoors, so we opted for a reasonably priced crash pad rather than a luxury hotel.  

To our joy, we realised that like many places in Asia, a little money goes a long way, so we managed to get a hotel with breakfast for under £40!

The Angkor Holiday Hotel is situated in the centre of Siem Reap
Now we didn't have overly high hopes of the Angkor Holiday Hotel, as we'd figured that you get what you pay for. But the hotel really exceeded our expectations. 
The Full Moon Night Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia Firstly, location. The hotel was situated right in the centre of Siem Reap. This meant we were within walking distance of a couple of markets, restaurants and shops, not to mention having a halal KFC down the road. For added convenience, several tuk tuks were waiting outside out hotel ready to take us around.

A bedroom suite at the Angkor Holiday hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Our room wasn't spectacular, but honestly wasn't bad. We ended up with a family room with a double and single, but there were all the amenities, hair dryer, toiletries, safe and complimentary bottled water. In fact, there wasn't anything noticeably amiss compared with the other hotels on our trip. 
The hotel also had a pool, games area, and lounge area. On our last day, they were kind enough to let us come back to the hotel and shower off using their towels before our flight back to Bangkok.
Breakfast at the hotel was also impressive. I assumed that for the price, we'd get a standard continental buffet. So it was a very pleasant surprise to see a fruit selection, hot food and an egg station outside, with polite staff ready to make us omelettes, fried eggs or even soup to our taste. 

This provided a great start to the day, ensuring we were full ahead of a packed schedule of sightseeing.
So overall the Angkor Holiday Hotel exceeded our expectations. We expected a simple crash pad, but we actually got a decent night's stay. 

A great crash pad, with friendly staff and a good location, there was nothing not to like.   

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Momo London - gorgeous setting, shame about the service

Afternoon tea tiered tray with Moroccan delicacies

Momo - a trendy Arabic restaurant serving halal food

So I went for afternoon tea at Momo's - a trendy Arabic restaurant right in the heart of Oxford Circus. 

Nestled in a leafy open terrace, the decor is every inch middle eastern and had the seating and decor that wouldn't look out of place in a Moroccan riad.   

I went with a friend and we shared afternoon tea between us, which was £22 per person. 

Afternoon tea at Momo features baklava and scones

As we were sharing one, we got to sample small bites of everything. Their chicken wrap was succulent, their scones were delicious (my favourite part of afternoon tea) but I didn't care too much for the sweet pastries and crisp bread. Though they offered unlimited tea top ups, I wouldn't say it was worth the price we paid, and you were very much paying for the central location rather than the food itself. 

scones and jam served at Momo London

However, the bigger disappointment for me was the service. It took a whole 20 minutes to get served, which is sometimes forgivable. But the biggest bugbear was when we were asked to move tables as we were sat on a table for four rather than two, and I accidentally left my bag there.  

Once I realised I was in a slight panic as it contained the prize for my recent blog giveaway which I was due to post out. However, I then spoke to a waiter who assured me that he had safely put it in the back and will bring it out for me. 

However, rather than returning it straight away, he faffed around for half an hour, served other customers and basically made me wait unnecessarily. 
Then there was the issue with the bill. Despite asking to share one course of afternoon tea, we were billed for two. An easy mistake to rectify, and the same waiter said he'd check to confirm the correct bill with the waitress who served us. Yet en route he seemed to forget and we waited another 10 minutes. Upon calling him over for clarity he seemed dumbfounded, suggested he was waiting for us to pay and discarded the double bill - confusing!     

So anyway, I didn't love my experience, which is a shame as it's one of the much prettier eateries in central London.      

I've been assured by friends that the cafe is much more value and reasonable than the restaurant and that their salads are nice. But I'm put off, and for a true Arabic experience I'll just head to Edgware Road next time. 

Friday, 31 July 2015

The best form of hair removal - shaving, waxing or epilating? Plus Braun Silk Epil review

Now if you're woman of a certain age (i.e. 20s or 30s), chances are that you've tried more than one method of hair removal.  Well I’ve tried three, because body hair is a bi-atch. 
And that’s what this whole post/video is about.  I talk you through the pros and cons of different methods of hair removal, from epilating and waxing, to good ‘ole fashioned shaving, I share with you the best methods, and reveal my go-to option.  I also thrown in some hints and tips to ease the pain that comes with de-fuzzing.          

The video also reviews one of the tools of the trade – Braun’s Silk Epil 7, which I was sent for consideration.  Check out my un-airbrushed review.                        

Braun's Silk Epil 7 epilator